When you receive a message from your child’s teacher suggesting that you come in for a meeting, you may feel a little panicked. Learning that your child is experiencing difficulties, whether they’re behavior or academic, is certainly disheartening. It’s understandable if you feel worried or anxious going into the meeting. As a parent and an educator, here’s my advice:
- You and the teacher have the same end goal in mind: Supporting your child so she can be successful. Keep this thought at the forefront. Having the people who spend the most time with your child – you and the teacher – working together collaboratively, will benefit your child immensely.
- Listen, ask questions, and share your experiences. I get it – it’s not fun to hear anything remotely negative about your child. But if the teacher has asked to speak to you, it’s because he has concerns and he wants to share them with you and enlist your support. He also wants to enlist your expertise. Parents, after all, are the people who know their children best. When a child is struggling in an area, parents are the go-to to learn more about what might be going on and how the school can help. Listen as the teacher explains what’s happening at school. Ask questions if you need to clarify things. If you see these behaviors at home too, or at swimming lessons, birthday parties, or playdates, share those experiences. Also share the strategies you have found to be helpful. When parents and teachers are on the same page and use consistent strategies at home and school, children reap the benefits.
- If the teacher suggests you seek outside support, such as from a doctor or psychologist, it’s coming from a place of concern. When students are having difficulties, it’s common for schools to recommend parents begin the “ruling out” process. Having hearing and vision tested is a typical first step. There may also be recommendations to see a pediatrician or to consider academic testing. While this may feel overwhelming, or even make you feel defensive, the end result is gathering more information about your child that will help you and the teacher support him effectively.
- After the meeting, maintain communication with the teacher. It’s not uncommon for both the teacher and parents to have next steps they will be taking. Touch base to share what’s been happening on your end and to check on the progress at school. Keep the partnership with the teacher strong and positive.
In almost two decades working in education, I have yet to meet a teacher who enjoys meeting parents to deliver bad news. So my message to you is that if your child’s teacher has reached out to you, it’s because she genuinely feels that the two of you need to talk and to create a plan to support your child. Her goal is not to make you feel anxious, to criticize your parenting, or to complain about your child. On the contrary, she wants to share her observations at school, learn more about your child from you, and create a plan to support your child’s success.
Written by: Erin Agnello
Edited & Designed by: Christina Denham
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.